Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sew you want a new machine

 I learned to sew on a treadle machine much like this one of my Grandmothers. The only stitch I can ever remember doing on her machine was a straight stitch, I'm not sure it would do much else. Embroidery, ruffles, and hems were always done by hand.

 She was the second generation to have used her machine. How do I know that? Our Great Grandfather kept a daily journal for years and years. There are so many entries about others in the rural area they lived in coming over to stay for a few days to get their sewing done. I found that to be one of the sew many interesting things I learned from his journals. I ask my Aunt about it years ago and she shared that in that time most farm families couldn't afford a machine of their own. ladies would spend a few days staying with our great grandparents to sew in exchange for some other tool or farm equipment that our grandparents didn't own, others might share a skill. One of the things my aunt remembered was one family made hard cheese, they would keep our great grand parents in cheese year round in exchange for some sewing time. A good sewing machine should last for generations!
 My next sewing machine was from my future Mother In Law as a Wedding Shower gift. It was a 1970's era Singer from Montgomery Ward. Holy Cow talk about heaven here on earth!! The sewing machine alone was a good enough reason alone to marry hubby, HA. Over the years curtain, drapes, blankets, clothes for our girls, special occasion dresses, gifts, mending, you name it this lady could do it.  I drove that old gal for over 30 years until she died a painful firey death. As she was humming along one afternoon she caught on fire...My hubby can fix just about anything but my girl was a lost cause :( .

At the time she went up in flames I was doing some work for a scrapbook designer who had incorporated sewn journals in her classes/retreats. I needed a new machine and I needed it fast to finish the order I was working on.  I was confidant purchasing a new machine from what I had thought was a good company (I won't say who) their product had been wonderful in the past. Not sew much any more. I was embarrassed to even pass it on to Goodwill it was such a piece of crap! Lesson learned, they don't make stuff like they use to and NEVER ever buy sewing machines from a big box store.
Sew I started saving and saving, and saving some more for what I knew would be a work horse of a  machine that I might even be able to pass down to our DD's. I researched on line for over a year, maybe even longer while I saved extra money here and there. I knew the ball park price of what I was willing to spend and I knew what I wanted out of a machine. I was laser focused when I went in to the shop for a test drive. However...
Once I was in the shop ready to lay down the cash I became overwhelmed with all the bells and whistles the new machines had to offer. I left the store empty handed with STICKER shock!! I eventually went back with a better grasp on what I really wanted/needed but still wasn't ready to let go of that cash. After test driving what I knew was the right machine for me I had the shop add my name to the waiting list of a used/trade in machine. With each trade in they called me on the machine that was offered was more machine than I wanted. I needed/wanted a basic machine.
Finally the day came where I was ready to just pay full price and be done with it. When I walked in the store they were running a sale, be still my heart!!! SOLD, load her up. The price? $1,200.00 ouch, but that was with $300.00 off the original price. I went with the Bernina 330. It's a basic machine that sews like there is no tomorrow!!
I was afraid to even turn it on, will I ever learn to really use it? Oh Ya baby did I ever. The dealer had free classes on Saturday mornings each month. Not only did they show you hands on what your machine would do they also let you use the shops million and one presser feet and attachments. I wanted them all until I saw the price. Holy cow, I thought the chrome hubby seems to always need more of on the Harley was expensive. Who knew presser feet could cost that much! Over the past few years I have bought a few that I knew I would use often, as a matter of fact I bought another new one yesterday :) Money well spent

After a few years with the Bernina 330 I decided I just might like to step it up a little now that we were in the grandparent stage of life. So many cute things for the grands had monograms or machine embroidery on them. Time to save and research again. I knew I wanted to stay with the Bernina brand but I just couldn't justify the price of an all in one machine EVER. Now maybe if I were too sew as a business I would feel differently but I sew as a hobby.
 The best learning experience for me was taking sewing classes offered at the shop I bought my first Benina from. Ladies would lug in machines of all shapes and sizes, brand spankin new machines, as well as 30 or 40 year old machines. Not only was I learning new to me skills on my machine and taking home cute FINISHED projects I was also able to observe what the high end machines could do.
Put two ladies together with a love of anything and you know we talk. Oh how we talk. A room full of ladies with a passion? Watch out, we talk a LOT!
Here is what I picked up
1.) Some of those all in one machines weigh more than the ladies dragging them along to class.
2.) All the gizmo's and gadgets for those machines needed a U Haul to carry everything around.
3.) Many of the ladies had to pull out their user manual to remember what buttons to hit to do regular sewing
4.) A whole heck of a lot of them had more than one machine. WHAT????
OK, this is nuts. These are not inexpensive machines. Why do you need more than one? It was time to get answers from the ladies themselves goodbye goggle.
Every single one of the sew sweet to share ladies said the same thing. It's was a pain the the butt to switch over from machine embroidering to a regular sewing mode. All gizmo's and parts would be all over the place. You need to use different thread therefor different bobbins for embroidery and sewing. It was easier to have one machine to embroider another to sew.
Hummm. SEW I bought a Bernina Deco 340 stand alone embroidery machine.
It's perfect for my needs (wants is a better word) The largest design I will ever be able to do is 5.5 X 7.9 which for me has worked out great! I have done some upgrading with fancy computer software that I will never learn all there is to know but I am a happy girl. Cost of the machine? If I remember right it was around $1,500.00

What the heck is yet another sewing machine box doing on the kitchen table? I have been researching once more. The first thing I looked up was "Addiction", I am thankful to report I do not fall in that category yet!

 Here is what I thought was a problem for me (excuse to buy another machine). I use my sewing machine.... as in often!! Sometimes I think by golly these machines are so good they could build a house. I'm not really sure about that but I know having one will cause a house to fill up with fabric pretty fast!
I sometimes sew on the go. Taking classes hasn't been a real problem as my 330 isn't terribly heavy but there has been a lot of times when I am making something decorative for the DD's that it's easier to just take my machine the their house to do the work. Once a year it along with more supplies than anyone should have is loaded into the baby SUV for a long GF's weekend of creating. Someday I have visions of going to a sewing retreat. Vacations? Ya, I throw my lady in (just in case).
I wanted a lightweight machine To Go. I was also interested in knowing what a beginner machine would do and feel like. Sew many of my friends and friends of our DD's are beginning to get the sewing itch. It's hard to tell them when ask that an good entry level machine costs between $1,200.00-$2,000.00. See what a good friend I am...I am willing to buy a THIRD machine just so I can pass on good information and tips! Ha

And Sew I am now the proud owner of a Bernette London 7. I will be giving her a workout today with some scraps (30 item scrap challenge remember) I will share in the near future what I like/dislike with this machine. Right now what I know I like is
1.) The price! $449.00
2.) Additional presser feet are reasonably priced
3.) Very simple to use
4.) Has a needle up/down function (is that what it's called?)
5.) Small and lightweight.
6.) A manufacturer who stands behind its products
7.) A store that goes above and beyond on customer service
8.) A store that has a wonderful service department
Well is this a long post or what! Maybe I should be a spokesmen for the Bernina company.
I am not here to knock other brands or manufacturers but you do get what you pay for and where you pay for it!
Here are some things NOT to do when buying a sewing machine
1.) DO NOT buy from a big box store!!
The brands and models sold are for the most part so low end that you will spend what should be a pleasurable time of creating in a mess of trouble with plastic crap that just won't work.
2.) DO NOT buy the cheapest machine you can find because you are not sure you will really enjoy sewing. Trust me you will not enjoy sewing on them!!
3.) DO NOT buy on line. first off you need to test drive the machine. Second, that box of plastic might not hold up well in the shipping process.
4.) DO NOT buy a machine that can't be serviced. You may be able to have the cheaper machines serviced but beware, the service, parts, and repair's may cost more than you paid for the durn thing to begin with!
5.) DO NOT buy what you can afford. What? No really you need to buy more than you can afford but SAVE up for it!!!!!
Do This
1.) Research different machines and manufactures, it's free!
2.) Know what you want from a machine!! A GOOD basic machine from a local dealer is worth it's weight in gold. How many ladies really use all of those million and one decorative stitches?
3.) Visit as many local shops/dealers as you can to test drive the machines. Is the shop/dealer friendly and informative? Do they service the machines on site? Take along some fabric to test drive with, if you know you like to work with heavyweight fabric, upholstery and such bring it along, cotton fabric? yep throw some in you would be amazed at how many machines will chew lightweight fabric up. Quilting? take along a quilt sandwich
4.) Don't buy on your first trip!! It will be hard to walk away once you fall in LOVE but keep on walking anyway. Once home list all the things you loved, now list any questions you have that you forgot to ask. Get on line and check out reviews. Ask friends and relatives what feature they wish they had or what is there must have feature in a machine. A good shop/dealer won't mind you bugging the snot out of them, they want long term happy customers
5.) Make sure the shop/dealer offers classes on the model you choose. With many of the higher end machines classes come free!! Take them! In addition check class schedules for additional pay as you go classes. You might be amazed at what all that basic machine will do and you get to take home something super cute.
6.) Be willing to save for your girl. Many/most of the high end manufacturer's offer financing. DO NOT DO this!!! There is no reason to go into debt for a sewing machine!! Get your name on the gently used list, the work horse machines are worth the wait. Keep on saving for what you want!
Sew that's my story and I am sticking to it. I am in LOVE with my Bernina's. I Love my local shop just as much. I say local shop but really there are other shops in our area I could have bought from that are just as close if not closer to our home. I went with the shop that I found friendly, knowledgeable, and who LOVES what they do. It's not just a store it's a passion of theirs its contagious...and I have the products to show for it :)


  1. Not everyone can save up money like that to buy a sewing machine. You'd have to have excess income coming in.
    I do just basic sewing, such as darning the holes in socks, making place mats, sewing flannel pajama bottoms, flannel girl pajamas, aprons, hemming pants, doing some minor repairs on clothes. I did sew some women's clothes like a wrap around skirt with matching blazer, and some baby clothes and bibs.
    I bought a basic Singer sewing machine from Wal Mart in 2002 for only $99. I use the basic straight stitch and occasionally the zig zag. I keep it clean, do my own oiling and still, to this day, must look at the manual to change a bobbin. I just follow the pictures.
    I did want to have the sewing machine serviced (like professionally cleaned and oiled) but the cost for that exceeded what I paid for the machine, so I declined.
    I did sign up for some sewing classes but unbeknownst to me, there is a touch of snobbery in sewing classes. The instructor actually laughed at my machine AND kept complaining it was too loud. So, I stopped going to the classes. He eventually went out of business. Karma, I suppose.
    I enjoyed reading your post. I won't ever be able to afford a $1200 machine in my lifetime (plus my husband would kill me) but $400 I could justify. I'm going to check out the London model. It seems to be a model for my plain, basic needs. Perhaps, I would sew more if I had a better machine. I do have to say the rosary and make the sign of the cross when I sit down to sew. It is a miracle each time I complete a project. Are they perfect? Nope but I get the job done regardless.
    Again, thanks for your valuable information.

    1. Cindi, I am so sorry you had a bad experiance in sewing classes :( I have thankfully never run into that around here. Mature ladies, young ladies and even young girls take classes with lots of levels and brands of machines. You can bet I saved for a LONG time to buy any of my machines!!! . Too funny with the rosary I will have to pass that tidbit on to friends, they will get a kick out of it

  2. Such timely advice! I would like to get a different sewing machine and you've given me a lot of food for thought. I don't have grands yet, in fact I think I have time to save up for an embroidery machine, now that I have your word that it is worth it. The regular sewing machine I want needs to be able to sew heavy fabric as well as delicate. What do you think of Necchi?

    1. Rozy, Sorry I don't know that brand of machine :( Do LOTS of research and test driving before you buy. That would go with any brand machine, you want it to fit your needs

  3. I have a Janome horizon that does both quilting and sewing and embroidery and has an extra wide throat. the two grand was well worth it and I have no probme going from quilting to embroidery (I really bought it for the extra wide throat so I could quilt big quilts on my small machine.

    That said, there are quite a few one to two hundred dollar models that will work fine for most general household sewing. For years I had a two hundred dollar brother and it worked like a charm. I made curtains, kids clothing, house hold decorations and the like. So while I agree what with much of what you say, I would NEVER discourage someone who was beginning to sew and wanted a to start now from getting a basic machine that they can afford. If their skills advance they can then move up.

    I'll actually be getting my daughter that 200 dollar brother.

    1. Barb, I have heard good things about the Janome, I didn't know they had a wide throat modle!! Everything I have looked at with a wide throat are out of this world costly!! I don't know when company's started making some machines so unreliable, I know my old and I do mean old singer worked like a charm I loved it to death. I did buy 2 different big box brands Christmas of 2012 when my machine was in the shop and I had to finish Christmas gift to mail fast. I took each of them back within 24 hours for a refund, they just were not worth the money :( How exciting too buy your DD her first machine!! Wish our girls would show an intrest I whold have someone else to share my stash with. Ha

  4. I have a feather weight(1940), 301 singer(1958), Viking (1992), Euro Pro (1999)....all still running and never a trip for repairs. These were all basic machines and could be repaired and cleaned by myself. Bernina or Viking are suppose to be top of the line machines so it's like buying that expensive car, partly you are paying for the name, and we all know a chevy goes down the road same as a corvette. I'm almost 70 and certainly don't need anything expensive or new even though I would love to have the Viking Diamond. For Christmas I bought myself a Janome computer model for $600. from Home Shopping network. I bought the Euro Pro from them years ago and love it to this day. Amazon had the same model but you get a huge package deal on HSN for the same price. I know it's a great machine, I'm just not a computer person and am having trouble with all the computer stuff like "modes"....I'll learn and enjoy all the extra's like the letters and numbers and 167 stitches. I live in the Lancaster Pa. area...would enjoy teaching any new sewer how to sew, deal with patterns, quilt...for free! So if you are near me and want to learn...just go to my blog and contact me. For me, if a machine runs, is cheap, used, loud...that doesn't matter. The purpose of a machine is to sew or repair and you can do that as long as the machine makes a decent stitch. I love reading your blog Debbie but there are so many people who do not have the same kind of income that you do. The money you spend in one month on fun stuff is my allowance for the year. We can all learn a lot from you. I love all the shirts you do for the girls and I'm using your Valentine idea for our nursing home for Easter (mug rug, cup in a bag), but I think for those on a limited budget those mug rugs as gifts can be made on a $100. machine or a used one from goodwill. Thanks for sharing your idea's with all of us just maybe encourage everyone to sew no matter what budget they are on.

  5. Holee, What a sweet offer to show others the basics of sewing I hope you have a housefull of takers!! I too love to share any skills I have picked up over the years with anyone. You have some SUPER machines, they just don't make like that any more. I know what you mean about the computer machines, thats why I took so many classes when I got my first Bernina, I still take them for the embrodery machine. There are lots of U Tube video's you might want to check out for your machine, I have picked up so many clues on what the heck to do with my machines! Hubby and I know we have been BLESSED over the years to be where we are at this point in our life, we will NEVER forget where we came from and how we got where we are. One of my favorite evening pleasures is to hand stitch, heck you don't even need a machine for that!!

  6. Great post, Debby!! My first machine was a "cheap" $300 Brother.... I used it for a couple years till it practically fell apart. BUT... at that point, it could not be fixed as it simply wasn't worth it. I think to start a "basic/cheap" machine is fine IF you're not dedicated to learning to sew. Once I had been sewing for a while I *knew* that I needed a GOOD machine! I avoided the "big box" stores as well and went to an authorized dealer. I ended up coming home with a Janome QDC 4030 that was on sale for $1000 down from $1300. I *LOVE* it... worth every penny I spent on it and I figure, like you, when I get more experienced and into my "grandma" years, i'll probably splurge a bit more as well. :)

  7. It's always great to hear about real experiences with these machines. I've had great luck with my Brother Pacesetter 6000 combo sewing/embroidery machine. It was less than $800 new when I got it and worth every penny. The local sewing store is always at me to upgrade when I bring it in for its regular servicing, but there's nothing I want to do that I can't on it. My serger is a Bernina--love that, too. Glad to have found your blog!

  8. Hello Debbie,
    I am from India and was eyeing to buy Bernette Sewing machine...and i came by your blog. I am now in a dialemma whether to go in for London 5 or 7 or 8....Yes, its bit high on my pocket to buy 8....although i can try my best for7. Yes, we donot use al the million stitches that is there on the please let me know know your thoughts. Also can you please do a review on this you regret buying it....or any problem if you are it easy to follow....